A self-described Christian man held a protest on the Shippensburg University campus on Wednesday afternoon, yelling anti-gay remarks and drawing a large crowd of students to the academic quad.
The man, dressed in a yellow T-shirt that said “Jesus said go and sin no more,” stood in the quad for a couple of hours and held a banner containing verses from the Bible and other statements including “repent or perish” and “God is angry with the wicked.”
During the demonstration, SU police officers arrived at the scene and placed metal barriers around the man to control the growing number of students congregating on the quad.
“We as a Ship community will not stand for acts of hatred on this campus,” SU senior Trent Bauer said. “Acts like this will only make us stronger.”
Bauer said he believes the man came to campus after hearing about Bauer’s recent appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” during which time Bauer was awarded $10,000 for his work as an LGBT advocate at SU. He said he did not hear any students supporting the man’s remarks. Others said they heard students participating and agreeing with the man.
While on campus, the man verbally attacked a gay couple walking through the quad and told the crowd that SU is nothing but sex, partying and drugs, according to SU senior Tasha Uliano. In response, she said students chanted “Ship is united, you can’t divide us” before following the man off campus.
More than 100 students surrounded the man by 2 p.m. in the quad for at least an hour. While some students argued with the man, others began singing and chanting. Finally, the crowd started to disperse only to form a chain by linking arms with one another.
At about 2:30 p.m., SU police officers escorted the man away from the quad, across Dauphin Drive and then down toward Prince Street. Some students shouted threats and profanities, telling him to get off campus. A few others threw water bottles toward the man, which missed and hit the ground.
The crowd followed the officers and the demonstrator to the university property line on Prince Street, continuing to yell and chant. An SU police cruiser pulled up to the sidewalk and officers escorted the man inside the vehicle. Two Shippensburg Borough police cars showed up as SU police drove the man away.
Dozens of students began clapping and cheering. They returned to the quad for a few minutes before finally dispersing.
This evening, SU President Laurie Carter sent an email to all students thanking them for their unity during the demonstration. She said the university believes in the values of free speech, but hopes to keep the emotions that come with that speech from erupting into physical violence.
“I was so proud when I learned of the efforts of a group of students who locked arms in a show of solidarity against hate. What’s more, they respected the rights of someone they didn’t agree with and protested peacefully at a distance,” Carter said. “Their actions epitomize our shared goal of peace, civility and respect for all people.”
Troy Okum/Editor-in-Chief contributed to this story.